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Singhania sets hot air balloon altitude record

Last updated on: November 26, 2005 21:54 IST

Industrialist-aviator Vijaypat Singhania on Saturday became the first man to soar 69,852 feet above sea level in a hot air balloon. In the process, he broke the world record of 64,997 feet, set by Per Lindstrand, in June 1988, in Texas.

"The balloon attained 69,000 feet at 8.55 am, thereby breaking the existing world record," an elated Gautam Singhania, son of Vijaypat, told reporters in Mumbai later.

Though the attempt was to attain 70,000 feet, the journey was terminated after touching 69,000 feet, he added.

"Our aim was to first touch the 67,000 feet mark to set the new world record. After that we had aimed to go for the 70K mark. After touching 69K he came down a bit and again tried to sail up.

"However, the technical team and the Aeronautical Society of India (ASI) officials monitoring his journey did not want to take any risk and insisted that he came down since the world record had already been set," Gautam said.

The balloon travelled at a consistent speed. It took off from the Mahalaxmi Race Course at 0640 hours amidst thunderous applause from a crowd gathered to watch Singhania take off on his mission.

Before lifting off Singhania said, "I'm very excited but very nervous and confident I'll make it."

A helicopter followed the balloon to monitor wind direction in preparation for the landing.

Also see: Conquering the skies

The balloon, called Envelope and designed by Don Cameron, is around 160 feet high (approximately equivalent to the height of a 22-storey high building). It is made of 67,250 square feet of specially made light nylon, allowing it to gain altitude without much difficulty. It was inflated by blowing air into it using portable fans. It is also designed to be rip-proof, and the capacity of the air inside is 80,000 kilograms (80 tonnes) .

There are 18 burners of different capacity and design. The capsule is equipped with three fuel tanks, two filled with kerosene and one with propane. The weight of the balloon (including gondola, the envelope, 18 burners and other apparatus) is around 1,820 kilograms. The capsule is also equipped with necessary safety devices, should Singhania be forced to abort his mission. It is also fitted with state-of-the-art instrumentation and control systems for navigation.

Our Correspondent